Painting of the apparition of Our Lady of Knock -1879 (inside the Shrine at Knock, Ireland)

During the Advent season, we reflect upon scripture readings that describe those individuals that prepared the way for Our Lord.  We read the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel speaks with Mary about being chosen as the mother of Christ and her “Fiat!”  We read about Joseph and his visit with the angel impacting his decision to be husband and Guardian  of the Redeemer. We read the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, a righteous, childless couple and how they are blessed in their old age with a son, John.  It was John that first recognized Jesus as Our Lord and spent his life preaching of Our Lord’s coming.  As the story of the events leading up to and including his birth unfold, so many join in pointing the way to Christ. Central in all the stories, in His public ministry and death, is his blessed mother, Mary. From the moment of her fiat through the centuries to today, Our Lady continues to point the way to Christ — not just in the Scripture stories — in the many visions and appearances she has made to the young and the old alike.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar it is reputed to be the first church dedicated to Mary in history, Zaragoza, Spain

As we pilgrimage around the world visiting sacred sites and encountering the faithful, we include in our itineraries the sites of approved Marian apparitions, learning of the stories, devotions and meanings of the messages Our Lady has shared over the centuries.  Well known  apparitions are of Our Lady at Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe and to St. Simon Stock (in England) to whom she gave the Brown Scapular and to St. Catherine Laboure  (in France) to whom she gave the specific design of the Miraculous Medal.  Irish Catholics are familiar with Our Lady of Knock while Italian Catholics may be familiar with Our Lady of the Snows and Our Lady of Revelations.

History is replete with appearances of Our Lady.  As early as 40 A.D., when Mary, on behalf of her Son, appeared to the Apostle James during his travels through Spain to boost his morale. She was seen on a pillar or column which gave its name to the shrine. The Marian feast of October 12 corresponds to Our Lady of Pilar. The sanctuary of this title is in Zaragoza, Spain.

The first recorded Marian apparition was to Saint Gregory the Wonder-Worker, Bishop of Neo Caeserea, who died in 270 A.D. The account of his vision is preserved by St. Gregory of Nyssa in his life of the Wonder-Worker.

One night he had an extraordinary vision: he saw an old man, dressed in dignified clothes, who, in a subdued voice, pointed to a woman far more beautiful and majestic than known to man; Gregory recognized that as the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary . The extraordinary nature of the apparition was that, despite being in the middle of the night, a light shone clear through those figures, as if it were a lamp burning on. Unable to bear with his human eyes the appearance and the light, Gregory closed his eyes and sat alone listening to her who had appeared and that was certainly the Mother of God. John the Evangelist (the old man), then, to please Mary, gave to Gregory detailed explanations on questions of religious doctrine, the subject of strong dispute in which he was actively engaged. After providing this clarification, the two disappeared.

The words of that revelation are as follows:

One God, Father of the living Word (who consists of wisdom, power and who is the eternal pattern), perfect Begetter of who is perfect, Father of the Only Begotten Son.

One Lord alone from him who is alone, God from God, pattern and image of the divinity, mighty Word, wisdom which encompasses everything, true Son of true Father, immortal [Son] of the immortal [Father], and eternal [Son] of the eternal [Father]. One Holy Spirit whose life is from God and who was made manifest through the Son (as well as to men), perfect image of the perfect Son, living source of those who are alive, holy provider of sanctity in whom God the Father appeared who is above all and in all,

Perfect Trinity to whom belongs glory, eternity and kingship which can never change. (Thus the Trinity is not created, has anything else which claims to be first, nor is there anything which exists that can be introduced later. Similarly, the Son neither lacks the Father nor does the Spirit lack the Son; rather, the Trinity forever remains immutable and constant.)

LINK to complete article on



Image of St Gregory the Wonderworker-more info at

In an earlier blog post we shared information about one of the oldest devotions to Our Lady from 352 AD known as Our Lady of the Snows.  This occurred in Rome. During the vision, Mary requested that a church be built and that snow would fall on the site where it was to be built and in the shape of the floorplan. Today this church is the papal basilica St. Mary Major. We visit St. Mary Major on every pilgrimage that includes Rome in the itinerary.

It is also during this time that the gospel writers, St. Paul and the early fathers and writers of the Church refer to Mary’s holiness, virginity and relationship to the Holy Eucharist. The Composition of the Protoevangelium of James (also known as the “Gospel of Mary” and written 150-155 AD) contains details about devotion to Mary and is the source of the names of Mary’s parents and traditions regarding her childhood and early life.  The inscription on St. Peter’s Basilica identifies Mary as Protectress and Advocate.  Churches and shrines are built in her honor including the Santa Maria in Trastevere (220 AD), the earliest known Christian neighborhood in Rome. Icons of Our Lady attributed to St Luke start to appear in 445 AD and over the next few centuries celebrations of the Annunciation, the  Assumption, Feast of the Purification and Feast of the Birth of Mary are instituted.

The Mother of God “The Sign” with Saints in the margins. Facade icon on the wall of the Protecting veil Cathedral (Saint Basil’s) in Moscow, Russia

During the 10th century, Our Lady appeared to St. Andrew the Blessed Fool-for-Christ and the devotion to Veil of Our Lady or the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos or known as Feast of the Intercession or Feast of the Holy Protectress began. According to Eastern Orthodox Sacred Tradition, the apparition of Mary the Theotokos occurred at the Blachernae Church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) where several of her relics (her robe, veil, and part of her belt) were kept.

On Sunday, October 1 at four in the morning, St. Andrew the Blessed Fool for Christ, who was a Slav by birth, saw the dome of the church open and the Virgin Mary enter, moving in the air above him, glowing and surrounded by angels and saints. She knelt and prayed with tears for all faithful Christians in the world. The Virgin Mary asked Her Son to accept the prayers of all the people entreating Him and looking for Her protection. Once Her prayer was completed, She walked to the altar and continued to pray. Afterwards, She spread Her veil over all the people in the church as a protection.

St Andrew turned to his disciple, St. Epiphanius, who was standing near him, and asked, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “Yes, Holy Father, I see it and am amazed!” LINK to complete article on Wikipedia.



To be continued….








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